What is Nvidia? What to know about the AI chip company that's everywhere, from ByteDance to X.

You may have seen the recent headlines about Nvidia, the California-based computer chip company that recently cracked the $3 trillion threshold in the stock market, putting it in contention with monster tech companies like Apple and Microsoft.

But while Nvidia’s CEO has been dubbed the “Taylor Swift” of the tech industry by Mark Zuckerberg, the 31-year-old company is only recently making a splash in the mainstream media — thanks, in part, to its newfound links to Elon Musk and ByteDance, which owns TikTok.

Here’s everything you need to know about the company, its hugely popular CEO and why people are talking about it now.

🤖 What exactly is Nvidia?

Nvidia was initially founded to build computer chips that would process graphics quickly, a useful technology for computer games. But in the last few years, the company has started to pivot to artificial intelligence just as public interest in AI skyrocketed following OpenAI's 2022 launch of ChatGPT (which was trained using some of Nvidia's graphics).

As tech companies started looking to AI, Nvidia was positioned to be the new go-to source for software and other materials necessary for the enormous computing power required by AI. Every major tech company, including Amazon, Google, Meta and Microsoft, uses Nvidia computer chips for its AI.

Today, Nvidia is worth nearly $3 trillion, making it worth almost as much as Apple.

🗣️ How do I pronounce ‘Nvidia’?

It’s in-vid-ee-ya.

👨‍💻 Who is CEO Jensen Huang?

Huang co-founded Nvidia in April 1993. In the decades since then, the 61-year-old electrical engineer has become a celebrity in the tech world. Mark Zuckerberg dubbed him the "Taylor Swift" of tech in a comment on an Instagram photo from March in which Zuckerberg posed in Huang's signature black leather jacket.

Huang is worth an estimated $106 billion, according to Forbes.

According to the BBC, wherever Huang goes, "crowds chant his name and scramble for selfies and autographs" — as evidenced in a viral video of Huang signing a woman's bra during Computex, an annual tech conference in Taiwan, where Huang was born. Reuters even called the Computex event "Jensanity."

😎 Why is Huang such a huge celebrity?

The U.S. and China have been racing to dominate the computer chip market, especially the chips designed for AI processing. Because of Nvidia, Business Insider reports, it's Taiwan that has come out on top, a major source of pride for Taiwanese citizens and a major source of income for the island.

Huang’s humble upbringing seems to play a role in why he has greater mass appeal than some other rich tech CEOs.

To learn more about Huang's background, read this profile from Fortune.

🇨🇳 What’s Nvidia’s connection to ByteDance?

On June 6, the Information website published an investigation that found that Oracle, a U.S.-based computer technology company, has been renting Nvidia chips to China-based ByteDance to train AI on TikTok. Since 2022, the U.S. has banned American companies from selling their AI computer chips to China.

The report revealed a significant loophole in U.S. sanctions against China, especially given rising tensions between the countries over technology and data privacy. In April, the U.S. passed legislation that requires ByteDance to sell TikTok by January 2025 or be banned in the U.S.; ByteDance responded by suing the government.

🚗 Where does Elon Musk fit into all of this?

CNBC reported on June 4 that Elon Musk told Nvidia to prioritize sending its AI chips to X and xAI, the ChatGPT competitor Musk launched in 2023, over Tesla.

The decision goes against what Musk has been saying and promoting as recently as April about how Tesla and its production of electric vehicles and humanoid robots were a priority for him. His transferring of the Nvidia chips to X and xAI will delay projects at Tesla. The decision has reportedly made Tesla shareholders nervous, which could impact their vote on Musk's multibillion-dollar compensation package, which is coming up for a vote on June 13.

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